Sunday, May 29, 2011

Comics You Should be Reading: A Brief Introduction

Being an ardent comic evangelist in often non-comic-reading groups, I often get asked what comics X should read.This really happens! There's a weird persecution complex in comics fandom, where fans think that non-readers are just waiting to rank on them if they voice some enthusiasm, but my overwhelming experience is that most people are happy to learn about New Fun Things. They just don't know where to start.

The trouble is that I hardly know where to start either. As a lifelong fan, having someone ask me "What comics should I read" is a bit like having someone ask me "How can I have fun in life?" There are so many answers, and it depends on the person doing the asking, and I could talk for hours about any of the hundreds of comics I like well enough to follow and oh man now my brain is locking up and I need time and an internet connection and ...

And here I have both. So here, in what I hope will be a not-infrequent series, are the Comics You Should Read, with descriptions and links and everything. This by no means an exhaustive series- I'm going to stick mostly to online comics, and I have my own very specific tastes and all-- but if you're like me, and you should be if you're reading this blog, this should at least give you a place to start.

Now, what sort of stories do you like...?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Invisible Failure Mode

Righty-o, I THOUGHT I was gonna do a post about the Thor movie (synopsis: It is awesome and Thor's chest makes me wanna get [Norse] religion) but then Science in My Fiction started talking about Spirited Away.

The rest of the post assumes you have seen Spirited Away at least once. If you haven't, you need to go do that RIGHT NOW. It's got fairyland riddles and dragons and witches and soot sprites and mystery and some of the most gorgeous art direction this side of the mortal divide. It's be Miyazaki, and if that's not enough to get you watchign a thing I weep for your deprivation. Go watch it, I'll wait.


Here's the thing. Every official writeup of the film I've seen describes Chihiro as sullen, spoiled, and/or whiny. And this baffles me, because Chihiro is constantly one of the best kids I've seen. In the first scene-after a long car trip with nothing to do, over country roads, in the company of her really awful parents, moving away from her friends and life and into the unknown- she's...tired and quiet. I know, she doesn't jump for joy when her mother dimisses her entire life to that point as something she'll soon forget; good grief, who would? And yes, when her parents decide to invade the supernatural realm through the tunnel with the psychic alarm signals, she tries to stop them. And when her parents- who at this point are well beyond insensitive and arcing into criminal-- decide to just EAT SOMEONE ELSE'S MEAL, she tries again to make them act like kerning human beings instead of wallowing porcine greed spirits. And when they in fact morph into wallowing porcine monstrosities, and alien beings manifest around her, looking for a scapegoat, she scarpers...

and then starts Dealing With It. And not, say, by leaving and finding good parents to live with, as a more cold bloodedly sensible person might, but by trying to save her own pig-family (who really, I cannot stress enough, have done nothing to deserve this effort) At this point, the reviews and descriptors generally agree Chihiro starts behaving well, so I won't ennumerate her many many acts of awesome from this point on.

Seriously, I know part of the movie's arc is Chihiro becoming more than she was, but from what I see she goes from well meaning but overwhelmed to Total Badass. I've never seen anything in her behavior that invited any of the negative descriptors often used on her (and the standard synopses never mention the fact that she's being raised by the kind of parents who invite throttling in every restaurant around the world). Someone fill me in, what I am missing here?